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Monitoring seasonal bat activity on a coastal barrier island in Maryland, USA

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Abstract

Research on effects of wind turbines on bats has increased dramatically in recent years because of significant numbers of bats killed by rotating wind turbine blades. Whereas most research has focused on the Midwest and inland portions of eastern North America, bat activity and migration on the Atlantic Coast has largely been unexamined. We used three long-term acoustic monitoring stations to determine seasonal bat activity patterns on the Assateague Island National Seashore, a barrier island off the coast of Maryland, from 2005 to 2006. We recorded five species, including eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis), big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus), tri-colored bats (Perimyotis subflavus), and silver-haired bats (Lasionycteris noctivagans). Seasonal bat activity (number of bat passes recorded) followed a cosine function and gradually increased beginning in April, peaked in August, and declined gradually until cessation in December. Based on autoregressive models, inter-night bat activity was autocorrelated for lags of seven nights or fewer but varied among acoustic monitoring stations. Higher nightly temperatures and lower wind speeds positively affected bat activity. When autoregressive model predictions were fitted to the observed nightly bat pass totals, model residuals >2 standard deviations from the mean existed only during migration periods, indicating that periodic increases in bat activity could not be accounted for by seasonal trends and weather variables alone. Rather, the additional bat passes were attributable to migrating bats. We conclude that bats, specifically eastern red, hoary, and silver-haired bats, use this barrier island during migration and that this phenomenon may have implications for the development of near and offshore wind energy.

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Johnson, J.B., Gates, J.E. & Zegre, N.P. Monitoring seasonal bat activity on a coastal barrier island in Maryland, USA. Environ Monit Assess 173, 685–699 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-010-1415-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-010-1415-6

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